You look but do you really see?
The voluntourism industry in Arusha is huge. Like, so huge it makes me a bit sick to my stomach. People pay RIDICULOUS amounts of money to come and have these experiences. These experiences where they get to spend a couple of weeks taking their photos with little african babies and children in their dirt floor orphanages. Then go on a couple thousand dollar safari. Meanwhile pretty much zero dollars are going into these orphanages or projects that they are visiting.
They look but they don’t really see. They come here and continue to live their lives the way the would in the states. The eat out at the western restaurants for every meal. They wear their tank tops and short shorts because it’s hot. They don’t even take a moment to consider what might be culturally offensive. They usually don’t learn any of the language, except for maybe “Hakuna matata!” from Lion King.
This whole post probably sounds very critical. I’m sorry if you’re offended. But in a lot of ways, I’ve been in shock over this voluntourism industry here. They might as well advertise as a way to “look” but not really see. To see what you want to see, and have the comfort you want to have, and to go home and continue living the way you always have.
If you really want to see, you need to listen. You need to sit with locals around a plate of ugali and cabbage, and eat with your hands. You need to learn as much Swahili as you can so the locals feel you actually try. You need to experience what it’s like for a woman to fetch her water, for her whole household. You need to ride the dala dalas and walk, walk a lot. You need to let the soil get so imbedded in your feet you’ll never forget.